Ever since tech companies began placing electronic scooters in Austin and cities across the U.S., injuries have been much more prevalent and serious than many people realize. Trauma centers are reporting daily accidents -- nationwide there could be as many as 1,000 injuries per day. Two people are known to have died in e-scooter crashes; others have suffered life-threatening and permanently disabling injuries.
"This is disruptive technology," an Austin ER director told CNET. "But this time the disruption is disrupting forearms, elbows and heads."
Officials haven't begun tracking accidents involving e-scooters, so CNET analyzed news reports and spoke with trauma centers in Austin, Denver, San Diego and San Francisco.
News reports have shown injuries ranging from black eyes to collapsed lungs, broken bones, organ trauma, skull fractures and even brain injuries. Some of the injured may require a lifetime of care.
The accident rate appears to be especially high in Austin. At the Dell Seton Medical Center, they're seeing about 10 e-scooter-related injuries a day. In October alone, 18 people were admitted to ICU, had surgery or were kept overnight.
Can Lime, Bird, Scoot, Skip, Spin and Jump be held liable for riders' injuries?
According to CNET, there have been multiple reports of problems with some lines of scooters. On one model, the handlebars can become detached from the body of the scooter. On another, the brakes have repeatedly failed or the throttle has stuck, causing the scooter to die mid-ride.
Owners' manuals for the scooters provide maintenance and riding instructions and advise riders to wear helmets. The scooters should be checked carefully before each ride and stored in a cool, dry place. Riders are cautioned to avoid riding in the rain, or exposing the scooters to too much sunlight or extreme temperatures. There is a weight limit of 220 pounds.
The companies renting the scooters don't seem to be following those manufacturer recommendations. Renters are only provided with non-mandatory online video tutorials that don't emphasize the manufacturers' safety rules. The scooters are left outdoors full-time and are sometimes vandalized. Many riders don't know to check -- or how to check -- whether the scooter is in good shape.
Moreover, Lime's user agreement states that the rider accepts full responsibility for everything that occurs during the ride, even if it should "result in injury or death to you or others." Other companies' terms of service also seek to limit their liability. Legally, however, these liability waivers may not be enforceable.
More and more people are renting e-scooters without sufficient information about what to expect. If you or a loved one has been injured while using a rented e-scooter, discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.